The Today Show’s Al Roker makes his fiction debut with The Morning Show Murders, coauthored with Dick Lochte.
What led you to write a mystery?
When I was about seven, my grandfather gave me a copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles. I’ve always loved the genre, and this was one of the fantasies I’d had in the back of my mind for a while. I had written a couple of books, none of them fiction, and I just wondered whether I could really do it. I know about morning television, I know about cooking, but I don’t really know about killing people. I had the idea for the story, but just didn’t know enough about plotting and pacing and was fortunate to be hooked up with Dick Lochte, who was a tremendous help.
Why did you decide to make your detective, Billy Blessing, a celebrity chef instead of a celebrity weatherman?
I thought making him a cook gave me more possibilities, and it opened up the potential for more locales. I think people would have expected me to write about a weatherman detective, but I do actually know something about cooking. Making Billy a chef allows me to play around a little bit in a different world, and sort of live out my other fantasy of owning a restaurant.
Did anything about writing the book surprise you?
Not a lot changed from the initial conception; Dick helped me to make sure things were logical and to avoid being plotted into a corner. The way the characters evolved did surprise me. I’ve interviewed a number of fiction writers, and they would say, “The character took me somewhere.” My internal reaction was always, come on, you created the character, how could that be? But when I wrote this book, I saw what they meant, and it was a revelation to see that happen, mostly with Billy. As I got to know him, I would say to myself, this wouldn’t happen, and I’d be forced to change things a bit.
If you were a criminal investigator, what would your strengths be?
People feel comfortable talking to me. I’m able to disarm people with a sense of humor. A little good will and a smile can lead someone to reveal more than they mean to. I think I’d be a slightly better-dressed Columbo, if you will. This carries over into the book. No one expects Billy to be a good detective, and he’s underestimated as a result.